BG 16.23

yaḥ śāstra-vidhim utsṛjya vartate kāma-kārataḥ
na sa siddhim avāpnoti na sukhaṁ na parāṁ gatim

Ignoring the precept of the scriptures, he who acts under the impulsion of passion, he does not attain perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme Goal.

(Translation by Swami Gambirananda)

The Vedas are only a few but there are hundreds of smṛtis and dharma śāstras.

Is the verse referring to the Vedas or dharma śāstras or Hindu scripture as a whole?

  • "You must follow the Chinese law document. But you're not allowed to use Chinese-English dictionary" - does this make any sense ? We literally cannot understand Vedas without Veda-angas. Even those scholars who understood/translated vedas into common languages had to use veda-angas.
    – ram
    May 10, 2019 at 8:30
  • It is referring to shruti and smriti. Because the same krishna says "shruti smriti mama ajna. ajna chedi mama drohi". TRANSLATION: "vedas and smritis are my command, one who transgresses my command is a traitor"!
    – user18248
    May 10, 2019 at 17:45
  • 1
    Is there some reason why a Hindu is supposed to follow precepts of the Sruti scriptures only? Why do we have thousands of other scriptures, Smritis, then? May 11, 2019 at 22:37
  • @brahmajijnasa The question is not about which scriptures a Hindu needs to follow. Its about which scriptures the BG is referring to. May 13, 2019 at 17:21
  • @sv. That verse tells which scriptures a Hindu is supposed to follow. That was my point. I don't think that Lord Krishna said that we are supposed to follow only Sruti while there are thousands of non Sruti, ie Smriti, scriptures in existence also. Btw, the word śāstra is used in the verse and not word śruti. May 14, 2019 at 19:24

3 Answers 3


I am answering this question by taking Sri Ramanuja's commentary into consideration. According to Sri Ramanuja, here śāstra refers to Vedas.

Sanskrit commentary by Sri Ramanuja

৷৷16.23৷৷śāstraṅ vēdāḥ vidhiḥ anuśāsanam vēdākhyaṅ madanuśāsanam utsṛjya yaḥ kāmakāratō vartatē svacchandānugaṇamārgēṇa vartatē? na sa siddhim avāpnōti? na kām api āmuṣmikīṅ siddhim avāpnōti. na sukhaṅ aihikam api kiñcid avāpnōti. na parāṅ gatim; kutaḥ parāṅ gatiṅ prāpnōti ityarthaḥ.

English translation by Swami Adidevananda

16.23 Here Sastra means Vedas. Vidhi stands for injunction. He who abandons My injunction called Vedas and acts under the influence of desire, viz., takes the path according to his own wishes, does not attain perfection, He does not reach any Siddhi in the next world, nor does he find the slighest happiness in this world, let alone the attainment of the supreme state. It is not possible for him to do so. Such is the meaning.

  • 1
    If shastra means only the Vedas then what value the instruction itself carries? Because it is from a shastra that is not Vedas
    – Rickross
    May 10, 2019 at 7:33
  • @Rickross Ideally you should pursue this with someone from the Ramanuja sAmpradAya, since this is his interpretation. However, I will hazard a guess here. Krishna's statement here is not an instruction to follow vedas, but a statement of fact about what happens if one does not follow vedas.
    – user16581
    May 10, 2019 at 7:38
  • so my next question is 'how do i learn vedas?' can i learn them without the veda-angas? if i don't even know the meaning of words (which is given in Nirukta), how can i follow them ? this is just silly. it's like saying you must only follow instructions given in original Chinese constitution, but you are not allowed to use chinese-english dictionary.
    – ram
    May 10, 2019 at 8:28
  • 1
    To people who have further questions on this, I think they should pursue this with some one from the Ramanuja sAmpradAya. I have only given his interpretation and added nothing of my own.
    – user16581
    May 10, 2019 at 8:34
  • i don't think you understood the distinction OP was asking for - he wanted to know whether it is vedas alone, or vedas + smritis. none of the translators address this point, because they are addressing a different point of 'is it vedas or other books like charvaka, islam etc'. because they assume it is understood that vedas implies vedas + smritis i.e. that which falls under sanatana dharma, as opposed to that which doesn't
    – ram
    May 10, 2019 at 8:35

Vedas are endless divine sounds.
Vyasa divided them into 4 - Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva

Veda Angas (parts) are a requirement to understand the sounds of Vedas.
There are 6 Veda Angas - shiksha, chandas, vyakaraṇa, nirukta, kalpa, jyotiṣha

'Shasanaat (or Shaasthi) iti Shastra' - that which orders is called shastra.

'Shastrayonitvat' - Brahma Sutra 1.1.2
Bhagavan can be understood only through Shastras
Commentary - "He who is ignorant of Srutis can not know that Supreme Being"

shastras = sruti = revelation = vedas

From this one might conclude that Shastras means Vedas (ONLY).
They would not be wrong.
But they would not be right, either.

Because the very immediate next question would be - 'great, now how do I learn and abide by Vedas?'

And that's where they get you. We are not a rishi yet to directly hear vedas through tapas/meditation. Translation of Vedic sounds into local languages does constitute 'revelation'. So we have to rely on the 6 Veda Angas to understand them.

And the very next question would be 'ok, how do I learn veda angas?'

Well, we are not sanskrit scholar yet to directly understand veda angas through study. So we have to rely on the 4 Upa-Angas: purana, nyaya, mimamsa, dharmashastra

dharma shastra = bhashya(explanation/commentary) of dharma sutra = bhashya of part of kalpa.

And the very next question would be 'ok, how do I learn dharma shastra?'

Well, we don't have the time, energy or inclination to understand these either yet. So we have to rely on our elders and acharyas.

So, the answer to your question - "is it Sruti OR Smriti?" is:

"if You = Rishi then Sruti else Smriti"


It is referring to shruti and smriti. Because the same krishna says in another scripture:

"shruti smriti mama ajna. ajna chedi mama drohi".

TRANSLATION: "vedas and smritis are my command, one who transgresses my command is a traitor"!

It would not make sense for Krishna to say just vedas is Shastra, because the gita he is speaking now is a Shastra too, or else if it wasn't a Shastra, than the verse in question has no authority!

therefore, it means vedas and vedangas!

  • Which verse is this and whose translation are you quoting? May 10, 2019 at 19:53
  • @sv. I am trying to find exact scripture this is from... I have forgotten, but I remember quote. if you type in google 'shruti and smriti are my commands', you'll get various references to this verse and translations by different people.
    – user18248
    May 10, 2019 at 19:54
  • Ok. Better to wait until you have found the source before posting an answer. May 10, 2019 at 19:57
  • It's apparently in Vishnu dharmottara Purana, appendix to Vishnu Purana - vaishnavavedanta.blogspot.com/2017/03/…
    – ram
    May 10, 2019 at 20:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .